Q&A: Geoff Smith, VP of field marketing at Epsilon

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Geoff Smith
Geoff Smith

The rules of e-mail copywriting are evolving for the age of mobile e-mail. Geoff Smith, VP of field marketing at Epsilon, explains how e-mail marketers are changing their copywriting strategies to reach busy consumers on the go.

Direct Marketing News: What are the golden rules to e-mail copywriting? Have they changed?
Geoff Smith: The first rule, first and foremost, is to know your audience. The audience will drive the tone and the type of conversation that you have. There are brands out there like Uncommon Goods and Moosejaw that have a different tone in their communications, and their audience loves it. A Polo or a Ralph Lauren would not be able to get away with that.

DMN: How has the emergence of prioritized inboxes changed copywriting?
Smith: I don't think they have changed copywriting for e-mail because those are at least marginally based on reputation. Frankly, keywords have become less important over the years with the advancements of ISP filtering systems. They have gone to much more of a reputation-based model than a content-based model. But with that being said, I think copywriting and clever subject lines and certainly the copy within the e-mail is as important as it's ever been. You are still competing with the million other e-mails in the inbox.

DMN: Is copywriting in the subject line still a top priority? Has that changed at all?
Smith: The subject line and the “from” address are the most important things in determining whether a consumer opens the e-mail or not. That's the same story that I would've told you a few years ago. You are competing against a plethora of other e-mails and consumers have a fraction of a second to see if they should open something, or delete it and move on.

DMN: How has the proliferation of smartphones changed what's important in copywriting for e-mail?
That will become more of a factor because you will not only have to copy write but design for the smaller form. So having the tools and technologies to deliver the most appropriate version of an e-mail will become more important.

DMN: Can you name a landmark moment when e-mail copywriting changed in recent years?
Smith: I certainly think the introduction of the iPhone got people really excited about mobile beyond what there ever was before. Creating that unique experience in mobile has definitely changed the landscape. Whether through e-mails, apps, or a mobile-ready website, those changes will continue to play a greater role as we move forward.

DMN: Are there major differences between copywriting for e-mail and copywriting for a marketing app?
They are totally different. When writing for an e-mail, you still have the expectations of the e-mail in its traditional form. Whereas with writing for an app, you have a different format and a different style and user experience. And you can do a lot more interactive things that you can't do in an e-mail.

DMN: Is there anything else that you want to cover?
Smith: I do think that testing copy is really important. Some of the most interesting campaigns that I have seen have flown in the face of traditional common sense around subject lines. Some of the best performing campaigns I have seen have had one-word subject lines and they have piqued people's interests.


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